The Centre on Friday sought public comments on the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which proposes to empower the Modi government to order the re-examination of an already certified movie, PTI reported.
In April, the government dissolved the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal with immediate effect. The statutory body was constituted to hear appeals of filmmakers who were not satisfied with the cuts suggested by the Central Board of Film Certification. Producers seeking certification for their works will now have to have to approach High Courts if they have any grievances with the CBFC.
With the draft bill, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said it wanted to add a provision to grant “revisionary powers” to the government on account of violation of Section 5B (1) (principles for guidance in certifying films) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, a notification said.
Section 5B(1) of the Act states:
“A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of 3 [the sovereignty and integrity of India] the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.”
The I&B ministry said the provisions of Section 5B(1) are “non-negotiable”. “It is also proposed in the draft Bill to add a proviso to sub-section (1) of Section 6 to the effect that on receipt of any references by the Central government in respect of a film certified for public exhibition, on account of violation of Section 5B(1) of the Act, the Central government may, if it considers necessary, direct the Chairman of the Board to re-examine the film,” the notification added.
On November 28, 2000, the Supreme Court had upheld a Karnataka High Court order striking down the Centre’s “revisional powers” to films already certified by the CBFC, The Indian Express reported.
But the ministry, in its notification on Friday, said the “Supreme Court has also opined that the legislature may, in certain cases, overrule or nullify the judicial or executive decision by enacting an appropriate legislation”.
It noted that under Section 6 of the Act, the government was empowered to ask for the record of proceedings in relation to certification of a film and pass an order after that. This, the ministry, said “means that the Central government, if the situation so warranted, has the power to reverse the decision of the Board”.
The draft bill also has provisions to penalise film piracy with jail term and fine. To tackle film piracy, the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was introduced in Rajya Sabha in February 2019, according to PRS Legislative Research. It was then referred to the Standing Committee on Information Technology (2019’-20). The committee presented its report in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on March 16, 2020.
The ministry has asked citizens to send their comments on the draft bill by July 2.